Dr. Jennifer Bahr, ND
Last month I gave a webinar for International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) entitled Removing Obstacles: A Naturopathic Perspective on Treatment. In that webinar I discussed the philosophy and therapeutic order of naturopathic medicine and gave some examples related directly to the natural treatment of bipolar disorder. One of the primary concepts, as suggested by the title, is that of removing obstacles. This is such a vital concept regardless of your choice to take the natural or conventional route that I wanted to make sure I touch on it again, perhaps in more detail.
The reason this is so vital is that it touches on establishing the conditions for health. Without the basic conditions for health in place, we cannot expect to achieve it. We can suppress the symptoms with medication, emotional eating, learned coping mechanisms (healthy or not so healthy), but we can’t achieve true health. We know this because once the medication or coping mechanism is gone, our symptoms return, often worse than before. We end up on a roller coaster of high and low moods, high and low energy, healthy eating/ relationships and unhealthy eating and relationships, and the high and low life that these things always feel like.
So what is an obstacle? It is anything that is contrary to good health. It can be either the presence of something that shouldn’t be there, such as large quantities of sugary or processed foods that are calorie rich but nutrient poor. Or it can be something that should be there but isn’t, like good quality sleep and physical exercise. Ensuring you have the foundation for good health will help your treatments to work better because you will generally be in a better state of health, and therefore not have to work as hard. If you think of your body (and yes, the body and brain are connected, so what happens to one affects the other) as a wheel barrel that you have to push up a steep hill to reach the peak, which is where health and recovery lie, how much easier would it be to push if you had a few pebbles in it instead of a few boulders? Everything that we do that is contrary to good health increases the size of the rocks we have to push up the hill.
This may raise a question for some of you along the lines of “all of my friends/family members/coworkers eat the same foods I do and have the same general lifestyle, so why do I have bipolar disorder and they don’t if all you need to do it remove obstacles?” or “why do the same things make me feel so much worse than others?” The answer to these is because that removing obstacles alone isn’t the answer. It is a step in the right direction to make healing and recovery possible. The reason people are affected differently is related to susceptibility. Bipolar disorder is just like any other condition in that some people are susceptible to it and others aren’t. Just like not everyone in the room with a sniffling coughing person will get their cold just because they were all exposed to the virus, not everyone will have mood fluctuations because of the same triggers.
It would be impossible to write a single blog that could give all of the information you could hope for to help you begin the process of removing obstacles. And not everyone will have the same obstacles. Food allergies or intolerances are a good example of this. Although there are some are more common than others, such as dairy and wheat, not everyone will have a reaction to them. Between my website www.DrJenniferBahr.com and the IBPF blog you will find regular entries about specific obstacles, how they affect the body, and how to go about removing them. (Or as in the blog about sugar I wrote during the holidays, how to limit its effects.)
In the meantime, if you are anxious to get started on your path to more stable moods, and more effective response to your medication, try journaling, not only about your feelings, but about your moods and five essential elements to health: sleep, food, exercise, water and sunlight. This alone may start to give you some insight as to things you may need to focus more on. Often people are not aware of their daily habits until they have to write them down – you may be surprised about what you discover. For more detailed information, listen to the recording of my webinar, and keep an eye out for future blogs!
Dr. Jennifer Bahr, ND is a licensed naturopathic doctor in Santa Cruz, CA. For more information about her or naturopathic medicine visit www.DrJenniferBahr.com.